Tuesday, December 15, 2009

For those of you with an online presence...

For those of you who facebook, twitter and blog, here's an interesting editorial from the New York Times. Definitely food for thought.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Book Give-Away!!!

FYI - Do you like free gifts? Tabitha Olsen has a fabulous book give-away contest happening on her blog. The titles are great. Check it out!

Hopeful...

I've just mailed my scholarship application for the Highlights Foundation Chautauqua Writer's Workshop. I've wanted to go for several years, but it's never been a possibility. I've heard such good things about the experience from my friends who have attended in the past. They report the workshops and mentorships were more than helpful. One full week of emersion in the writer's community sounds fabulous to me. And so today, I'm hopeful...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Procrastinating...

Honestly, other writers should know better than to introduce their writer friends to these type of distractions!

Apple Game

I got 59 apples my first try. How many apples did you get?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Fast Drafting


I'm reading a book called First Draft in 30 Days, by Karen S. Wiesner. It is a method designed to to reduce time-intensive rewrites and avoid writing detours. It also shows you how to create an outline that is detailed and complete enough to double as your first draft.

I've never mastered writing quickly. I write the beginning and the ending, and then I stew and brew over the middle and the details. I have a terrible need to fix and revise as I go. I consider it a bad habit I need to break.

SO... I'm going to give this a try. I like how Wiesner plans out a schedule. Each day has a specific assignment. The required detail is daunting, but if done right, the subsequent drafts should be fairly painless. Should be.

I don't know if I can complete this in 30 days, but I will consider it a successful venture if I can complete a draft in 90 days. That's still fast for me.

Anyone else out there fast draft? Pointers will be appreciated!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Thoughts on Gross...

WARNING: THIS REALLY IS ABOUT GROSS!

You can't be an elementary school teacher and not have a high GTL (Gross Tolerance Level). The type of gross you deal with depends upon the grade level you teach. In my humble opinion, pre-school, kindergarten and primary teachers are saints. The level of gross they deal with each day is daunting. My classroom is right next to a Head Start pre-school room. Not only do those teachers get to wipe runny noses and brush toddler's teeth, they get to change diapers too. That's right. Pre-schoolers don't have to be potty trained to attend public school. Yuck.

First and second graders are all about holes and fingers. Fingers in their ears. Fingers in their noses. Fingers in their mouths. And they like to use their sticky fingers to poke the teacher to get their attention. Thank goodness they're cute. You can forgive a lot when cute is involved.

Gross takes on a whole new meaning once boys reach 3rd and 4th grade. Out-grossing one another becomes the goal. Recess can be quite an educational experience. If you notice a huddle of boys in fits of laughter in the corner of a playground, it's a good bet there's gas coming out one end or the other.

You haven't lived until you've been cooped up in a hot classroom with a group of 5th or 6th graders who just came in from gym or recess. The smell is unbelievable. You can try to talk to them about personal hygiene, but please know that you will lose them at the mere mention of the words "body odor." Uncontrollable laughter will ensue. You'll be lucky to get them to hear they must wash before they put on deodorant. It's a preventative, not a cover up... HAHAHAHAHAHAH...

Lots of people get tickled at gross. My mother-in-law would become incapacitated by silent, gut-wrenching giggles at the word fart. She would laugh so hard she couldn't breathe, and then she'd snort and start all over again. One Christmas someone, probably one of the sisters, got her The Book of Farts. She laughed so hard all day that her sides hurt by dinnertime. I miss that lady.

My mother would not laugh at the word fart. No. Instead, she would tilt her head and raise an eyebrow at you. She probably didn't dare laugh since it would only encourage my dad and brother to raise the gross ante. They're pretty good at that.

If you're wondering why in the world this topic came to mind, you can blame Lisa Yee and her facebook entry from yesterday. That's right. Lisa's facebook entry began: "Regarding snots and boogers, which ones are hard and which ones are soft?" So far 57 people have chimed in with an opinion. Thank you, Lisa, for some very vivid dreams last night.

I'm done with gross for now. Really, I am.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Goodbye, Humphrey!

Saturday was a sad day.

My dear friend, Humphrey, an iBook G4, said his final goodbye. He was a wonderful and reliable laptop. We've surfed the net, watched movies, played with my pen tablet, and written many stories together. Only once did he get sick. He required a brain transplant. He was a gentleman through it all, timing his surgery just 30 days before his warranty expired. This past year he began to suffer from Sometimers, which just recently turned into a full-blown case of Alzheimer's. I dared not ask him to remember anything. Instead, I gently introduced a new friend named Flash. Flash and Humphrey worked well together.

Rest in peace, my friend. You will be missed.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

What a Weekend!

This weekend I traveled to Pittsburgh to the WPASCBWI Conference, heard Bruce Coville speak - twice (fabulous!), had my first conference manuscript critique (very productive and encouraging), listened to Steven Meltzer talk about Dutton Children's Books, had lunch with Danielle Chiotti from Upstart Crow (okay, she decided to sit at my table and we struck up a conversation -very nice lady), toured Pittsburgh with a long, lost high school friend, said farewell to my laptop, traveled to Springfield, Ohio to celebrate Dad's 75th birthday, and finally made it back to Cincinnati this evening. All in all, I logged 604 miles, and I'm a happy gal.

More on the weekend tomorrow. For now, the pillow is calling...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Writer Stuff

I am in heaven.

I'm facilitating a high school workshop that focuses on the process of writing a novel. I've never had such an enthusiastic group of students. They are eager, receptive, they participate, take risks, and they're talented! (Hurrah!!) Tonight was our second meeting. I shared Maggie Steifvater's blog post about 'How Maggie Writes a Novel," and we began the critique process. I can't wait to see what they bring to the next meeting.

Tomorrow I leave for Pittsburgh to attend the Western Pennsylvania SCBWI Conference. Friday night is a "write in" night. I've got a date with my laptop. The conference is Saturday. I'm pumped! Should be good.

Daughter just came in to inform me that she's almost made it through the whole week without her stomach growling in English. Ah... the trials of 6th grade.

Keep writing!
Nora

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sew Much Fun...

My daughter loves Pirates of the Caribbean. Especially Elizabeth Swan. So it was no surprise when she announced last August that she wanted to be Elizabeth for Halloween, and would I PLEASE make her a costume??? Sure. Why not? I had plenty of time. What did it matter that my sewing experience was limited to an octopus pillow I made in Jr. High home economics, a crib cover for my son (who will be 20 in December), a pair of pj's that I made in a sewing class I took 3 years ago, and a quilt square? As long as I was able to take my time, it should be fine. Right?

I agreed to make her a costume then promptly forgot about it. She reminded me last Sunday that Halloween was only six days away, and that I hadn't started her gown yet. No panic necessary, I thought. I can work on it a little each day. I had lots of wedding satin left on a bolt in the closet. I'd had my gown made. The bolt had sat in the closet for 24 years waiting for a good project. This one would do. We went to the fabric store, chose a pattern, bought some brocade, lace and notions, and headed home. I planned to cut out the fabric that night and start sewing Monday. Everything was going as planned until I laid out the pattern to cut the skirt. I was 1/2 yard short of satin. No problem. I'll go back to the fabric store tomorrow after school and pick up something that will work.

I found what I needed - costume satin! Big mistake. It frays, runs, and is ridiculously slippery. I melted the first seam I tried to press. I suppose you get what you pay for... I worked diligently on the bodice. My seam ripper and I became good friends. Better friends than necessary, actually. When it was all said and done, I was glad to see him go back to the sewing box.

It took the entire week's worth of evenings to complete the dress. I finished the final hem 10 minutes before Trick-or-treat. I don't know if I'll ever attempt to sew something this hard again, but daughter loves it. And that's what counts!


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Fun Theory...

I saw this video today and it got me thinking. The premise is that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people's behavior for the better. In this case -taking the stairs instead of the escalator.

It's true, isn't it? As a math teacher I do it all the time. It's not always easy to turn around a bad attitude regarding math, but bring out the jump ropes, paints, and blocks (and I'm not talking about for the little kids), and suddenly I'm hearing "When can we do this again?" We hope our toddlers get out of diapers by giving them a target to hit or rewarding them with M&Ms. We sit down to fold laundry and turn on a good movie to keep us entertained. Even Cinderella whistled while she worked.

I think Volkswagen has it right: If you want make a change in people's behavior, make it fun!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Playing Hooky

I've been playing hooky from my blog. Sorry, but there's so much good stuff to read right now. I just finished Suzanne Collin's Catching Fire. Awesome! I had to bump it out of the "On Deck" section ahead of Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, because I'd borrowed it, and there's a huge waiting list of people who want to read it. Thank you, Sep, for letting me read first.

I bought Demon King, by Cinda Chima, and Blue Moon, by Alyson Noel today with my coupons. As a book-a-holic with a habit to feed, I'm always looking for a deal.

Shiver calls, but so does my manuscript. What to do? Dwell in my own world, or someone else's... Tough decision.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Because It Made Me Laugh...

My favorite high school buddy sent this to me.

Swine Flu Gets Out of Hand...

Monday, September 28, 2009

My Favorite Time of Year

There's something about the arrival of fall weather that refreshes and revitalizes me. The to-do list suddenly doesn't seem daunting. My windows get washed along with walls and baseboards. I clear out the garden for spring and plant trees in the yard. My kitchen smells of stews and pies and hearty soups. The garage gets a make-over as I hope that I can fit my van inside before the first frost. My two mile walks in the park turn into five. I especially love walking the trails through the woods. The air is chilly and damp from the earlier rains and sharp with the musty smell of wet leaves. It's my favorite time of year.

Fall has come a little earlier this year than usual, and I hope that means that it'll stick around longer too. I'm never ready for the Cincinnati winters. Icy and bitter cold one day, wet and miserable the next, and gray, gray, gray everyday.

So I'll enjoy this beautiful weather while I can, and I'll pray it lasts a long time. Love it!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Whole Novel Workshop for Teens

"Mrs. Mac! Mrs. Mac!"

I was standing in line at the local Dairy Queen when I heard my name. I turned around just in time to receive big hugs from two former students, brother and sister - one now in Jr. High (sister) and the brother who is in High School - where DOES the time go?
Both are talented writers, but Brother has made it known several times over the years that he is interested in writing as a possible career. He has written and illustrated several graphic novels, he seeks out writing education beyond his HS classes, and his current love is psychological thrillers. His question to me: Will you do a writing workshop at the HS?

It's not often that I get a young adult who asks for such a big commitment because of their intense desire to learn, so I told him I needed to think about it. He'd be the first to know if I did.

I wasn't sure I wanted to tackle this. The program I teach in my school district has changed this year. I'm writing extensions and enrichment activities for my 5th and 6th grade math classes as well as for four other teacher's reading and science classes. My plate is fairly full, but I kept finding myself collecting information - websites and such, that would be great to share with the kids. I decided to go ahead and do it.

I'm excited! I've gotten permission to hold the workshop. The English department at the HS is on board and distributing flyers to students. I'm just waiting on a room assignment.

So now, my blogging writer buddies... Here's the gist of the workshop. It will meet 2 times monthly throughout the rest of the school year.

Whole Novel Workshop

Have you ever thought about writing a novel? The Whole Novel Workshop will show you how to harness your ideas into a workable plot, develop your characters, and put those ideas onto the page.

• Open to participants with a strong desire to learn about the process of planning and writing a novel. Participants will:
o write a premise and logline
o develop characters through interview techniques and questionnaires
o develop a plot and complete a novel outline (not what you think!)
o share their work with the group
o learn and develop constructive critique skills and etiquette
o develop and apply self-editing skills
o learn how to format a manuscript for submission
o work towards completion of a 200 page novel (give or take a few pages)

Also:
o learn about agent/editor submission process
o How do I write a query?
o Invitation to a meeting of a Cincinnati chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writer’s and Illustrators (free) www.scbwi.org
o Field Trip to a children’s writer’s critique group (SCBWI) (free)
o Come away with a wealth of practical writing resources!

Expectations/Needs
• Consistent Attendance
• Continued monthly progress on novel
• Traveldrive and a 1 inch binder (for resources)
• Good attitude and a sense of humor!!

I would truly appreciate any suggestions or ideas you may have. Something on this list you think I should add? Resources that I should share with the group? Please share!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Whew!

Garage clean. Hazardous chemicals to recycling center. Grocery shopping done. Five loads of laundry washed, folded, put away. Back deck flower pots put away for next spring. Scrubbed kitchen cabinets and walls. Stove exhaust fan degreased. Cooked ribs, scalloped potatoes, grilled corn and baked rolls. Cleaned up kitchen again. Front yard weeded and trimmed. Watched Pirates of the Caribbean with daughter. Blogged. Bed.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

This is Truly AMAZING!!!

This video features Cecilia Siqueira and Fernando Lima (Duo Siqueira Lima) performing TICO TICO NO FUBA (Zequinha de Abreu) during the Brazilian Music Institute in Gainesville, FL. The performance took place at Santa Fe Community College, May 8 - 2009.

I've never seen anything like this before! Sure would make practicing a lot of fun...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Drat That Cat!



I was supposed to be able to sleep in today. You know, no alarm clock, sweet dreams and all that. But promptly at 7 A.M. my dear fat cat, Buttercup, decided she had waited long enough for breakfast. She cried outside my door for five minutes before I finally let her in and hopped back into bed. Then she cried at the foot of the bed. I pulled the covers over my ears, but she refused to be ignored. She promptly knocked over my glass of water next to the bed and then thumped me on the head. Hard.

I can recognize a losing battle, so I dragged myself out of bed once again to make the long (yawn) trek to the basement to feed the starving, fat cat. When I reached the bottom of the stairs I was greeted by a pile of dirty socks not so neatly stacked in front of the laundry room door and the very large lid of the litter box upside down in the middle of the room. Both are probably compliments of this cat, Angel- who, by the way, does not live up to her name.



When Angel was younger I would come home from work each day to a pile of dirty socks stacked right in front of the entryway door. It must be too much of an effort in her middle age to drag them up two half-flights of stairs. The laundry room door will have to do. As for the litter box lid, Angel delights in scaring the fur off Buttercup - especially when she's in the litter box. More than once I've seen her whack the living daylights out of Buttercup's tail as it sticks out of the box. Buttercup probably jumped high enough to knock the lid off. I have no idea how it got in the middle of the room. Must have been some party.

Back to Buttercup. I decided that since I'm up it would be a good time to get some writing done. House is quiet. Kids are still in bed. Perfect. Except the fat cat decides she still needs attention. Meow. In my lap. Meow. Down to the floor. Meow. In my lap. Meow... you get the picture. It's very hard to concentrate on a new story line with 15 1/2 pounds of feline in your face. Thankfully, all that exercise has now worn her out. She is napping at my feet, and she'll probably stay in that spot for the rest of the day.

Time to get back to the manuscript...

Monday, September 7, 2009

Buried...

Coming soon, to a blog near you... a new post!

Sorry! I'm buried in school work. I'll get back on the blog bandwagon as soon as I can. Have a good week!


Nora

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Timing is Everything...

It's true, isn't it? Whether it's a job search, an accepted or rejected manuscript, or events in our everyday lives, timing plays a major role.

For instance...

Today is Sunday. Normally I arrive at church at 9:29 for a 9:30 rehearsal -I'm an accompanist and my husband plays the bass and trombone. I had just sat down on the piano bench when the music director called down from the sound booth, "Hey Nora, I think Tim's playing today."

Excellent timing! (think I). Not that I don't enjoy playing. I do, but it's a rare Sunday indeed when I get to take a break.

I decide to use my extra hour to knock off a few items on my 'to do' list for the day. I head to the van, make a few stops on the way to the house, then pull into the drive.

The 3 weeks before and the first week of school is rough on the inside of my van. It begins to think it's a truck, a kitchen, and a dining room table. I've got 30 minutes left before I head back to church, so I thought it would be nice to surprise hubby with a fresh, dusted, cleaned and vacuumed inside of the van. He would like that. I set to work, and when I finished I had to admit it looked pretty good. You think the van would appreciate that. But no. It decided to whack me in the head and face with the back hatch.

I texted hubby to let him know what had happened and that I would pick him up after church, then I headed to the freezer for an ice pack. I'm going to be pretty colors. Did I mention that school pictures are this week?

Timing is everything...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Busses and Children and Spiders - Oh My!

Today was the first day of school.

I am, by nature, a night owl. I love walking in the neighborhood late at night, and I do my best writing sitting under the stars on my deck in the wee hours of the morning. Three A.M. bedtime or later isn't unusual for me during summer or Christmas break.

Then schools starts again. It takes me a good three weeks to turn my internal clock around. I try to do it before school starts, but it never works. Six-thirty feels mighty early when your brain only shut off a few hours before. It doesn't turn back on again before 9.

I left the house at 7:15 with the plan to be at school early. And I would have been, if I hadn't driven to the wrong school. That's right. I went to a completely different building - one where I don't even teach this year. In my defense, it was a logical thing for my sleep-deprived brain to do since I started in that building last year. I didn't realize my mistake until I was sitting at the light with my signal on, waiting to turn into the parking lot. Hopefully, no one noticed. Unfortunately, my detour put me behind a school bus. School busses are rarely on time the first week.

I did make it to my morning building. I was greeted by this:


I am thankful the resident wasn't visible.


I made it through the rest of the morning and afternoon without further incident. The caffeine IV probably helped. My students were cute and fun and eager to get started. It's going to be a good year.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Joys of Sitemeter

This might sound funny, but I just LOVE Sitemeter! Geeky, I know, but I get a kick out of seeing where all of you are from. Who would of known that someone besides Mom would visit my blog?

I've had visitors from all over the United States - except Hawaii and Utah, and I have visitors from our neighbor - Canada. It's fun to see the different country's flags appear on the list. Some of the more recent ones who've visited are from South Korea and Germany. I've had visitors from Great Britain, France, Italy, Trinidad, South Africa, Denmark, and Japan - to name a few.

It really is a small world! Please leave a comment or a simple hello when you visit. Let me know where you're from. And most of all, thanks for stopping by. Ya'll come back now!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Vowels and Hearsay...

I have no idea if this is true, but I heard that in Arab schools vowels are removed from the text once the student learns to read.

I wondered what that would do to the readability of the English language. Would it improve? Think of all the different pronunciations we have for a single word - read, for instance. Hmmm... if it was spelled rd, it could be read, red, rod, road, rude... Reading would come down to deciphering context clues. On the other hand, there would be no more diphthongs, vowel-blends, short and long vowel structures and such for all the little primary kids to master... And think about what removing vowels would do to the page count of a novel!

I wondered again what it would look like. So here's something for you:

Mry hd a lttl lmb, ts flce ws wht s snw,
nd vrywhr tht Mry wnt, th lmb ws sr t g.

Did you get it? Try this:

W hld ths trths t b slf-vdnt, tht ll mn r crtd ql, tht thy r ndwd b thr Crtor wth crtn nlnbl Rghts, tht mng ths r Lf, Lbrty, nd th prst f Hppnss. Tht t scr ths rghts, Gvrnmnts r nstttd mng Mn, drvng thr jst pwrs frm th cnsnt f th gvrnd...

A little harder?

As I look at it I'm realizing my son already writes likes this. It's called text-messaging!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightening Thief


For all of you who are Percy Jackson fans, you can watch the movie trailer here!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Something Fishy...

Sometimes the best laid plans go awry...

Everything was good to go when I left. The corn was shucked. The grouper was thawed. I also had a pork chop for hubby -who once told me he'd divorce me if I ever cooked fish in the house. When he was a teen he spent a summer working for the City of St. Joe, MI. His job? Aside from mowing and emptying trash, cleaning up the dead chad on the beach. Ew.

I left to spend the afternoon with my critique partner and friend. We like to meet for lunch, and today we chose Applebee's. I called about 10 minutes before I reached the restaurant to make sure we were heading to the same place. She assured me she was on her way. When I arrived at the restaurant the hostess seated me and said she'd keep an eye out for my friend. Five, ten, fifteen minutes pass. No crit partner. I began to worry, so I called her again.

"Did you fall into a hole?" I asked when she answered.

"No, I've been sitting here at the table waiting for you."

We'd been seated on opposite sides of the dining room. We found each other, had a good laugh and got down to business. What does that mean? Fifteen minutes reviewing chapters and the next three hours talking about everything else. As always, we had fun.

I arrived back at the house ready to fix dinner. I turned on the grill and got the pork chop started, and I pulled out the blackened seasoning and dredged the grouper. The first sign of trouble occurred when I went to check on the pork chop. The propane had run out. Not a problem, I thought. I always have a backup propane tank just for these kinds of emergencies. Except, I found, I was already using the backup tank. Frying was my quick alternative. The chop was about halfway cooked so it didn't take long. I fried the fish as well. Hubby was so happy to come home to that smell, but he hasn't mentioned the "D" word yet. Table set, food cooked, mission accomplished.

I took the first bite of grouper. It was awful! So salty it nearly turned me inside out. I drained my glass of water.

"What's the matter, Mom?" My son threw a suspicious glance at his plate.

"Don't eat that!" was all I could manage.

I needed more water, so I headed to the sink. That's when I noticed the spice bottle on the counter. It wasn't blackened seasoning. No. It was Lawry's seasoned salt - which is fine in very small doses, but certainly not meant to be used to dredge seafood. Ugh! I threw two more pork chops in the skillet for dinner and tossed the fish. What a waste. I love grouper.

I've decided it would be a good idea to keep the blackened seasoning on a different shelf. Oh, and I think it's high time I replaced my glasses.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Last Hurrah...

Tomorrow is my last free day to play this summer.

School starts the 24th. I spent the first few days this week setting up classroom number one. It's pretty much good to go. Translation - It'll look good for open house. Appearances count, you know. Next week I get to set up my second classroom - traveling teachers are lucky that way. I'll need to write lesson plans, create math lab activities, and come up with journal topics, too. I've an email newsletter to send to parents and welcome postcards to the kids. But that's next week.

Tomorrow I play. I've a date with my manuscript in the morning, then a lunch date with my critique partner and good friend. Our lunch date topics run the gamut from literature to politics, family and the daily doings - whatever hits us at the moment. We talk for hours. I love it. I might have to hit the dollar cinema to watch Star Trek one last time. Yes, I'm a fan. A big fan.

Friday I hit the road to go get daughter in Michigan. She hasn't missed me one bit. Uncle has kept her BUSY! I'll be glad to get her back. Two weeks gone is a long time for this mama.

I'll try not to think about tomorrow as the last hurrah. It begins to feel a bit desperate if I do. I'll take the day as it comes. Maybe next week, if I'm efficient and lucky, I can squeak in another play day before the opening bell!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ahhhhh.... Solitude

For the first time in a very long time I have the house completely to myself. All day. Daughter is in Michigan. Son just left to register for classes. Husband is at work. It's just me and the cats.

I could get a lot done today, if I felt so inclined. I could clean house or do the never-ending laundry. I could be a good little writer and knock off another chapter of my WIP. But it's raining outside and the house is quiet. The day whispers for the simple pleasures - a good read.

I'm going to throw a pan of sweet corn bread in the oven to slice with a cucumber and tomato for lunch. The rest of the morning will be spent on the couch reading about Bartimaeus and Nathaniel. I can't wait to find out how their story unfolds.

I love solitude.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Playlists

Okay. Every now and then I like to try something new with my writing. I regularly peruse author websites and blogs to see what's up. One thing I keep seeing, especially from YA authors, is a playlist - songs to set the mood while you're writing. "So," think I, "Maybe I'll try that."

Big mistake.

I spent a crazy amount of time searching iTunes for songs that carried specific themes (time I could have spent writing). When I finally got to work, I found the words of the music got in the way of my creativity, and my brain chose to analyze the chord structure of the music instead of the flow of my story. When I realized playlists didn't work for me, it was too late. The damage was done. Every time I sat to write, the songs STILL got in the way - even though I didn't play the music any more.

My next thought was to find a way to "cleanse the palate" and clear my head. What would be the musical equivalent of lemon and water?

Mozart.

Thank you, Amadeus! I found that if I played the music low enough, hardly there really, I could write without distraction. It was just enough to keep the lyrics of the other songs out of my way. I could think again!

I've learned my lesson. I know my learning and working styles. I don't need to delve into other people's modus operandi to improve my focus.

Moral of the story: Don't fix what ain't broke.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

When Characters Have a Mind of Their Own

My characters have a mind of their own. Not a bad thing at all, really, except when they want to take off on a detour that doesn't support the plot. I did extensive character interviews before beginning this novel, so each of their personalities are well-defined in my head. It makes the conversations fun and easy to write - most of the time.

Every now and then a character has their own idea - one I hadn't planned on including. The strange thing is, I'm finding they are usually right, and I'm not. When I'm stuck or confused, I pull out their character sheet, and sure enough, their needs, flaws, desires and worldview support the words and action they wish to take. My job is to make sure it supports the logline and sticks to the plot. It's a puzzle, and I love creative problem solving.

I've looked at quite a few character interviews and worksheets. Some are intricate and others are bare-boned. I keep mine simple by using the following format:

• Character name and physical description
• 5 important facts
• List of hobbies
• Personality traits
• Character Flaw
• Needs of character
• Desires of character
• Worldview before inciting incident
• Worldview after inciting incident

I like this format because it usually fits on one page and is easy to read. A necessary thing for this easily-distracted brain! What tools do you use for character plans? I'd love to know!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Nervous Wreck!!!

My daughter has finally been released from physical therapy and went back to gymnastics tonight for the first time. She was sooooo excited to get back! I was a nervous wreck... She made fabulous progress getting her arm straightened again (after a total dislocation and broken elbow). It only took two months. But the doctor made it clear she's not completely healed. "Go back to the gym, but no impact activities. You WILL dislocate it again if you don't follow my directions!"

I watched her tonight. She worked hard and had a ball. I held my breath for nearly the entire two hour workout. She has permission to work on the beam and the bars. No Vault, and only the dance routine for floor. She has to mark the tumbling runs. I worried about her hanging from the bars. I worried about her falling off the beam. I watched her climb a 30 foot rope to the top in no time flat, and worried that her arm would be too tired to come down. I was sure she'd fall, and we'd be back at square one. When it was all said and done, she was fine. I didn't need to worry.

I was like that in the beginning with her therapy too. I was so upset because I thought she was going to hurt. She was a trooper. Never shed a tear, but I did.

Friday is her next practice. I'm going to drop her off at the door and leave. I'll pick her up when it's over. She'll be better off. I'll be better off. We live less than ten minutes from the gym. I can get there fast if I need to.

I say that now. We'll see...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Back in the Saddle Again - First Drafts

Whew! Back in the writer's saddle again. Thanks Adrianne, for the 5 minute writing block suggestion. I sat down with intention of writing whatever came to mind on the page for 5 minutes. Next thing I know, it's and hour and half later, and I've completed an entire chapter. The thoughts that have been simmering have come to a boil and burst through the surface. What a relief to get my thoughts on paper again!

First drafts are so much fun to do. People have lots of names for it. I called it the vomit draft. Sorry. Not a pretty picture, but it's true. You get it all out, then you come back and clean it up. I throw everything extreme I can think of into the story when I'm mining ideas. Later, when I'm finished with the 1st draft, I weed out the extra and do my best to make the rest believable. I have an excellent critique partner. She reads everything - even the vomit drafts, bless her. That's a true friend. Later, when I'm preparing for submission, I present at my writer's group. They are a varied lot, highly opinionated, and extremely helpful. I can't imagine sending out a submission without my critique partner's discriminating eyes!

I'm heading back to my WIP progress now before I lose steam. Carpe diem!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Bad Writer! Bad, Bad Writer!

I've been bad. Yup. Really bad.

You would think that I would get all kinds of writing done during the summer - since I have time to do so. But no, I've been playing hooky. Tooling around in the garden, playing online games, surfing the net for "research." The result? I have a sum total of 5500 words written for the summer. That's a far cry from "I'm going to complete the first draft of my WIP by the start of school."

I get like this when I start writing a new novel. I find myself thinking about it quite a bit - dialogs in my head, plot details, etc., but when I sit down to write my brain goes other places - none of them in my story. One of my writer friends said, "your story is cooking. Let it simmer." But my head says it's more of a lack of discipline. My summer days are not structured like my school days. I am most productive with structure.

I'm going to take the housekeeping advice of the FlyLady and apply it to writing. In short - get down to business. Get dressed down to shoes and go to WORK. Set aside time to get the job done, and do it!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

More Garden...

I had some more lilies bloom today. My favorite is a Candy Apple red. The others are a dusty rose and white. I tried taking their pictures yesterday, but the exposure was awful. I took these at dusk.


Saturday, June 27, 2009

I Love My Garden...

I love to garden. It gives me such satisfaction, and it's cheaper than therapy.

I didn't work in my garden last year, and boy, did I pay for that THIS year! Last year I was grieving. Not only for the loss of my sister-in-law, but for the loss of the eleven, 60 foot trees that my neighbors on both side of our property cut down. They needed to come down, I know that, and I don't begrudge the decisions. But 10 years of hard labor on a shade garden went down the tubes - fast.

This year I'm experimenting with sun-loving flowers. I still have some shade gardens, although they do get sun part of the day. I've been working on my lilies for several years, and I planted my coreopsis two years ago. They're ready to divide, and I think I"ll move some of them to the side of the house next year.

Today I thought I'd share some of my garden that is blooming. I'm expecting hibiscus any day now. If they are showy, I'll share them too. Enjoy!






Friday, June 19, 2009

Stuck! Ugh!

My writing streak has hit a BIG wall today. I've been sitting at the computer for an hour, and I think I've put a sum total of five words on the page. Time to go outside and visit the real world. Take a trip to the garden store and buy some more mulch. Treat the kids to lunch out, maybe go to the pool or see a movie...

I'm banning myself from this chair until after dinner!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

AWOL...

Sorry... I've been AWOL from my blog.

However I've been productive - 5200 words in the last 5 days on my new WIP. I'm trying, trying, trying to do 1000 words per day. I've been working mostly at night - between 10 PM and 2 AM. It's hard to write during the day. My daughter, the one who is recovering from the dislocated and broken elbow, is BORED. She is usually active ALL the time, and her friends are also gymnasts. Their fun is to play on their trampolines, personal bars and beam, and try to outdo each other on the diving board at the pool. But daughter isn't allowed to do any of this - yet. Tonight I invested in the Wii Fit. She was so excited! Hopefully it will keep her attention for awhile.

Finally, I've been tagged by Rena. Thank you Rena, for bringing me back from being AWOL!

Sinful Nature

"Sometimes you can learn more about a person by what they don’t tell you. Sometimes you can learn a lot from the things they just make up. If you are tagged with this Meme, lie to me. Then tag 7 other folks (one for each deadly sin) and hope they can lie."

Pride -- What is your biggest contribution to the world?
My ability to knock the ball out of the park!

Envy -- What do your coworkers have that you wish was yours?
Recess duty. I love standing outside with kids in all kinds of weather.

Gluttony -- What did you eat last night?
Chocolate covered aphids. It was an easy and tasty solution to the problem in the garden.

Lust -- What really lights your fire?
Pants that are belted below the butt. There's something exciting about guys that have to walk like penguins...

Anger -- What is the last thing that really pissed you off?
My cat will not stop playing with my hair when I'm trying to read on the couch. So annoying.

Greed -- Name something you hoard and keep from others.
Batteries. The kids don't need all those gadgets to work. Right?

Sloth -- What’s the laziest thing you ever did?
Lazy... hmmmm... who's lazy?

I tag the following 7 bloggers -

1 . Chocolateer
2. Green Girl in Wisconsin
3. Trisha
4. Carrie
5. Sarah
6. Christina
7. Anne

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Contest, A Quote, and Just Because...

A Contest:
Hop on over to Christina Farley's blog to enter a contest to acquire an autographed copy of one of Min jae's books AND a traditional Korean rice paper fan!
How To Enter:
1. Leave a comment on her blog to be entered to win.
2. If you are a follower, you will get an extra entry (please remind her if you are!)
3. Post it on your blog for an extra entry (leave her a note that you did)
Don't worry, she will ship to anywhere in the WHOLE WIDE WORLD!!

A Quote:
“A story should contain at least: 1 belly laugh, 1 honest tear, and 1 gasp.” – Bruce Coville 2004

and just because...
The Worst Best Man Ever

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Beginnings

I don't know about you, but I can't get into gear writing a new novel until the beginning is written and satisfies me. It doesn't matter that I've got all of my character sketches complete, my research is complete, that the roadmap is clear, or that details from other parts of the story are flying around in my head. I know lots of writers who start in the middle then work forwards or backwards or jump all over the place. Not me. I'm a linear critter.

I've been struggling with the start of my new novel, probably because I've been closing and moving classrooms, finalizing school paperwork, and otherwise mentally occupied. School ended yesterday, and last night I was finally able to put down the first five pages - and I'm happy with them. Doesn't sound like much, I know, but it makes a big difference in my writing state of mind.

I think I'm ready to take off with this novel - which is a good thing, since I've publicly committed myself to 25k words by the end of June. I need to write 1200-1500 words a day to accomplish this. Good thing it's summer! Only 23,836 to go...

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Back to Writing

The end of the school year is fast approaching, and with it comes the opportunity for uninterrupted daily writing time.

I'm one of those people who need structure to remain productive. So before the first day of summer break arrives, I set goals and make a plan. Nothing super detailed, mind you. But each day has blocks of time for writing, gardening, house chores, activities with kids, etc. I have found if I don't do this, the summer slips by and my to-do list remains untouched. Before I know it, I'm back in school, and the list is stuffed in the drawer for another summer break.

My first writing goal this summer is to complete a 1st draft of my current novel. I'm a need-a-deadline kinda gal, so I'm entering "The 1st Annual Complete Your Draft Contest!!" The contest officially begins June 1st. The goal for novelists is to write at least 25k new words by the end of the month. Contest information is listed below. Thanks, Anne Marie, for posting this on Verla Kay!

My second writing goal is to submit a manuscript for an editor/agent critique at a writer's conference this September. SCBWI Mid-South has posted their conference brochure online. It will be held in Nashville, and the faculty list is:

Kaylan Adair, Associate Editor, Candlewick Press
Patrick Collins, Creative Director, Henry Holt
Caroline B. Cooney, Award-winning Author
Shelli Johannes-Wells, Marketing Expert
Cheryl Klein, Senior Editor, Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic imprint)
Michael Stearns, Agent, Firebrand Literary Agency

The Northern Ohio SCBWI group also holds a fall conference, usually in the Cleveland area, the 1st weekend of September. They have not posted conference information yet, but it should be coming soon.

If any of you know of any upcoming conferences within 5 hours of Cincinnati, please let me know!


The 1st Annual
Complete Your Draft Contest!!


Contest is brought to you by Les Trois Graces in association with Tuesday Night Chatters.

Rules*:
  1. Contest is open to any writer at any stage (first-timer, agented-but-not-yet-published, or published authors; also hobbyists, etc.) to encourage the completion of a first draft or writing project.
  2. Contest is open internationally.
  3. Contest officially begins June 1, 2009 and will end at 23:59 (your local time as time-stamped by your e-mail provider) June 30, 2009.
  4. Contest requires a .txt document be sent to LTGcontests [at] gmail [dot] com for word count confirmation. Once counted, the document will be deleted. This will be done twice. Once when you sign up and again on June 30th.
  5. To be included, please leave a comment on this post (let me know where you heard about it too). Everyone signed up on this post is in! Send your .txt document to the address above no more than 24 hours after commenting (or viewing this entry).
  6. Those who sign up as novelists must write at least 25k new words, which is half of what NaNoWriMo requires in a month. Those that sign up as poets must write at least 1k new words. Please feel free to contact me, as this is open to discussion based on your project!

* By signing up, you agree to these rules. Rules may be subject to change at any time, but notice will be given 24 hours in advance. No monetary compensation is required for joining the contest.

Prizes**:
  1. Prizes will be awarded no later than July 14, 2009 (Bastille Day!).
  2. Prizes include†:
    • $10 iTunes gift card
    • $20 amazon.com gift card
    • One chapter critique by on ANY project of winner's choosing
    • Custom designed web banner by the amazingly talented ! (Please visit her website and check out her soon-to-be released book, Harmonic Feedback!

  3. All winners will be entered into a random drawing for above prizes.
  4. Contest winners will be announced no later than July 4, 2009.

** Contest organizer is not responsible for lost or misdirected mail. Prizes will be sent by e-mail or ground mail, depending on item. Neither signing up, nor completing a draft will guarantee that a prize will be awarded.
† Contest organizer is still waiting to hear about a couple other possible prizes. Please check back throughout the month for details!


Extras:
  1. Points will be awarded for the following:
    • Spreading the word on your blog, discussion board, or website.
    • Getting a friend to sign up and successfully complete their draft.
    • Donating a prize.

  2. Points can be traded in if word count is not met by June 30th.


Have fun! Write, write, write! Good luck. :D

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Confessions of a Talent Junkie

I can't believe this, but I'm a complete Britain's Got Talent junkie.

Me. Which is strange because I can barely tolerate television. I usually listen to the news on my tiny kitchen TV while I cook dinner, but you'll rarely catch me sitting down to watch a program. I always feel like there is so much else to do that is more productive. My daughter figured that out when she was four. "Mama, come and watch TV with me. We can fold laundry..."

I'm watching it, of course, online. Maybe that's why I like it. I can click on the segment I want to see, and I can view what I'm interested in without the interruption of commercials. Or maybe it's because some of the acts are so bizarre. I have to admit I'm drawn to the singing and dance acts the most. I'm so hooked that I even have the clock on my Mac set to London time so I don't miss anything. The semi-finals are this week, and the final is this Saturday. The shows begin at 8:30 p.m., and they start posting the acts online within an hour. Which is terrific because I can watch them when I get home from teaching and still have dinner on the table at the normal time.

Except tonight. I opted for frozen pizza while I wait for the Semi-final 3 Recap...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Good News!

Daughter and I went to see a pediatric sports medicine orthopaedic surgeon today (say that one 10 times fast!). Good news!! He disagreed with the ER doctor. He believes daughter will not have to give up gymnastics. The plan is surgery Tuesday for a pin in the bone, no cast, and therapy begins within 3 to 4 days after surgery. She can begin conditioning at the gym under the care of a sports therapist within 2 weeks, and may be back to full training within 6 to 8 weeks! Sounds great, but I'm getting a second (third?) opinion. Better safe than sorry.

Maybe now I can get my head back into writing/plotting my new novel. I haven't put down a single new word on the page. No inspiration. None at all. Just the desire for a good, long nap.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Not for the Faint of Heart...

I've decided orthopedics is not for the faint of heart.

Friday, my 11 year old daughter took a major spill at school during an obstacle course race for field day. There is nothing quite like the 11 A.M. phone call from your child's teacher letting you know the emergency squad is on it's way. When I arrived at the school she was already in an air cast and in the ambulance. When we got to the hospital the diagnosis was a complete dislocation of the left elbow and fracture of the proximal head of the radius. When the doctors put her bones back in place, the fractured part of the elbow broke off. We go to the orthopedic clinic this Wednesday. We'll find out then if they plan to put her in a hard cast or if she'll need surgery to secure the broken bone.

It's tough watching your kids go through the hard stuff. It's harder still knowing that they'll have to set aside a dream because of it. My girl is all about competitive gymnastics. She has some pretty lofty goals - a good many of which I believe were attainable. The doctor said gymnastics is probably out of the picture. When daughter visited the gym her coach told her that sometimes gymnasts with serious injuries switch to competitive diving - all the flips and fun without the impact. That seemed to brighten her day. In any case, we'll worry about that later. We have a possible surgery and a summer of physical therapy ahead of us first.

Long weekend. Expecting a long week. Summer of physical therapy... Here's hoping for waterproof casts so she can at least get in the pool this year!


Total dislocation


This piece broke off when they put the bones back in place.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Alive and Well and on the Planet Earth... again...

The end of the school year is fast approaching -and with it, all of the paperwork that comes with closing down two classrooms. This year I am also moving one room to another building. In short, blogging will be sporadic for the next few weeks - as will writing time and reading time. But I'll be back soon.

Keep reading and writing!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Book-a-holic Mantra

I'm not allowed to purchase The Last Olympian until I (start) finish reading Fablehaven. I'm not allowed to purchase The Last Olympian until I finish reading Fablehaven. I'm not allowed...

Thursday, April 30, 2009

SAVE THE CAT!


I LOVE this title!

Helen Hemphill stated in her Nashville workshop this past weekend that studying screenwriting was one of the most constructive things she's done to learn about the craft of writing. She recommended reading SAVE THE CAT! The Last Book On Screenwriting That You'll Ever Need, by Blake Snyder. I've taken her advice to heart. My copy came in the mail today!

As I peruse the Table of Contents, the first thing that catches my attention is the title of chapter one: WHAT IS IT? It gives a short description: "The importance of 'the idea' - What is a 'logline' and what are the four requirements to creating a better one? - What is 'high concept' and why is it still relevant? - Test pitching your movie for fun and profit - Plus five games to jump-start your idea-creating skills." If I can come away with a better understanding of how to write my logline, the book purchase is justified.

One more resource before I sign off for the night. Check out the Tennessee Screen Writing Association website. Click on "Writer's Tips" on the toolbar at the top of the page. There are all kinds of worksheets to help you plot the perfect novel.

Keep Writing!

Monday, April 27, 2009

"Plotting the Novel" - Workshop with Helen Hemphill

I attended a fabulous workshop this weekend in Nashville titled “Plotting the Novel,” sponsored by the SCBWI-Midsouth group. The speaker was Helen Hemphill, author of three award-winning books published by Front Street and edited by Stephen Roxburgh: The Adventurous Deeds of Deadwood Jones, Runaround, and Long Gone Daddy.

Helen is an excellent presenter. She divided her workshop into sections – 1) Premise, loglines, opening lines and opening page, 2) Defining the protagonist/antagonist, sequence of story, self-realization and theme. After each section we were given writing assignments that we later shared with the group.

I am not a trained writer, no MFA in literature or such, so I am always looking for workshops or seminars on the craft of writing. I find the interactive workshop very helpful. Helen discussed specifics, gave examples, and required us to apply what we learned immediately to our own work in progress. If you have the opportunity to hear Helen – go. If you would like to schedule her as a presenter for your school, writer’s group, or other group, you can contact her through her website listed above.

Lunch was also informative. One of the questions that came up at my table was, “How do you find your writing topics?” Several people said they peruse newspapers and magazine articles –old and new, for interesting stories. They find an obscure or strange aspect to the story and run with it. Others brainstormed fun titles first, or played 20 questions with a character. My first novel just “came” to me. I free wrote for several days before I decided I should probably have a plan. Like I said – not a trained writer. This time around I’m plotting first. I have a premise and logline, character sketches and an outline. Now I need to do a bit of research and begin writing.

How do you generate topics for your books?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

It's Official - I'm a Trenchie!

Yes, I have now officially jumped into the submission trench! It's a bit scary - looks somewhat murky in here, and I like to see where I'm going. I'm patient (mostly), but I hope I'm not one who has to wait for years or forever to become published. I plan to take the advice of my fellow Blueboarders - submit and move on to the next project. Wish me luck!!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Lemonade Stand Award


Rena has awarded me the Lemonade Stand Award for great Gratitude and/or Attitude. Wow - Thanks Rena! To accept the award I must follow these rules:

1. Post the logo on my blog.
2. Nominate 10 blogs with great gratitude/attitude.
3. List and link my nominees.
4. Alert them of their nomination on their blog.

This is hard! There are so many good blogs to read. I enjoy reading about your thoughts on literature and writing, your adventures, and family. It's tough to narrow just to 10. Here goes:

1. Mary Whitsell
2. PJ Hoover
3. Chocolateer
4. Lady Glamis
5. Brenda
6. Ann Spollen
7. Christy
8. Green Girl
9. Linda D
10. Cinda

I am now on spring break. Woo hoooooo!!!!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Crazy Week...

Writing and blogging took a back seat this week. It was a tough one. I lost a dear friend to pancreatic cancer on Tuesday. She was also one of my choir members. She will definitely be missed. Friday, my son was in an accident. Both he and the other driver are okay, but both cars were totaled. It's the stuff of parental nightmares...

On the writing front - I'm heading to Nashville April 24th for the SCBWI-Midsouth Plotting Workshop. I'm making it a personal retreat weekend with designated writing assignments while I'm there. I'm pumped!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

No Time to Blog...

No time to blog today. I'm buried in a REALLY good book! The City of Glass, by Cassandra Clare. Next up: The Forest of Hands and Teeth, by Carrie Ryan.

Yes, I know I'm supposed to be writing, but it's Saturday...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Joy of Plotting

I love to plot.

There's nothing quite like a good puzzle, and plotting a novel certainly fits into that category. I keep notes on foreshadowing, conversations, events, character quirks, and setting descriptions. I triple check every detail to be sure each is attended to and resolved. I find that I like to write the first couple of chapters, and then I go straight to the end. It helps me not to wander if I know my destination. All I have to do is connect the dots, right?

Maybe... Just like any connect-the-dots puzzle, the more dots there are to connect the sharper the picture. I like to use a loose framework to plan. The details come as I write. Helene Boudreau posted this structure on her blog. It's simple, and it works well for me.

Inciting incident (The big problem)

Plot Point 1 (first obstacle)

Plot Point 2 (second obstacle)

Plot Point 3 (third obstacle-situation is about as bad as it can get)

Climax A (lighting the fuse)

Climax B (watching it burn)

Climax C (kaboom!)

Denouement

Resolution

Another good source for understanding how to build specific plots is 20 Master Plots -and how to build them, by Karen S. Wiesner. I refer to this book each time I start a new project - my own little refresher course!

What plotting strategies and resources do you use?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

14 Week Novel - because I'm a glutton for punishment

That's right. Stephanie Ruble has challenged all of us to join her in completing a novel in 14 weeks.

Okay. I know that not long ago I posted that one of the things I learned in my first month of blogging was not to make public writing goals. Consider me a slow learner. I'm going to give this a try. This is not Nanowrimo. It's not 50,000 words in 30 days. We're in week 2, so I have about 90 days left. I have a plot. I've completed quite a bit of research, and I have 3500 words written.

For me, this is an exercise in silencing my sergeant of an inner editor. And so:

• I WILL NOT EDIT the 1st draft until it is finished (wimper)
• I have permission to write brief comments in the margins regarding changes, especially if Sergeant Inner Editor is in overdrive
• I can write chapters out of order. The manuscript will not spontaneously combust if I do.
• If Sergeant Inner Editor is starting to win, I will walk away from the computer and run a lap around the block, or work in my garden, or cook dinner for my family (they might appreciate this), or go to bed before midnight (late nights and early school days don’t mix)

I've got my Memorex in my purse and loaded with new batteries. It's much safer recording thoughts than trying to write notes while driving. Um.. not that I've tried that. My laptop is charged so I can write in the van while my daughter spends hours in gymnastics. My flash drive is on its lanyard (because I can't lose it when its around my neck).

I think I'm ready. Stephanie- I'm in!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Synopsis Question...

I've finished my revisions, and I'm now writing synopsis drafts. Chuck Sambuchino, Editor of 2009 Guide to Literary Agents, says you need to have these 5 things ready when you send out your manuscript:

Logline: 1 sentence summary
Pitch: 3-6 sentence summary (also known as book jacket pitch)
Short synopsis: Front to back telling of the story. Introduces characters, conflict, and includes ending. Told in present tense. 1 page single spaced, or 2 pages double-spaced.
Long synopsis: General rule of thumb - one page summary per 30 pages text
Full (spotless) manuscript

I have a logline, draft of a pitch, and a completed manuscript. I'm working on a long synopsis, and I will write my short synopsis last. My question is, how many of you have a completed long and short synopsis before you begin querying?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Cooking and Writing Don't Mix

I've decided that I am not allowed to write any more while I'm cooking dinner.

Yesterday, I fired up the gas grill. I usually give it 10 minutes to heat up, so while I was waiting I decided to knock off another page or two of revisions. Normally, the grill is about 350 degrees when I check on it. I came downstairs and headed out to the back deck. There I was met with 10 feet of melted vinyl soffit. Most or it was twisted, scorched and mangled over my head. Some of it smoldered on the wood deck. The lid on the grill was closed (thank goodness), and the thermometer on top was maxed out at 700 degrees. First thought, Turn off the grill! I reach for the plastic knobs to turn off the flame. It was only after I grabbed the knob that I realized they were melted. Next thought (besides %#$^&#ow!), Turn off the gas! Brain was not working well. I grabbed the metal, yes metal, cut off valve on the propane tank and gave it a turn. I immediately let go, slamming the top of my hand into the red hot drip pan. It was at this point that I noticed the eves were smoldering. I ran into the kitchen, grabbed a potholder, turned off the gas valve, ran into the garage, grabbed the hose and sprayed down everything - the deck, the soffits, the brand new lawn chairs (which survived).

Did you know that hot metal warps and turns rainbow colors at 700 degrees?

My husband came home as I was finishing the drenching. The look on his face was definitely a Kodak moment. He was very gracious (thank you!). We decided to get our neighbor, Fireman Jeff, who took one look at the roof and said, "Call the fire department." The fire truck and police came. Their lighted glory blazed through the block- much to the delight of the neighborhood children and Gladys Kravitts, who donned her binoculars so she could inform the rest of the village that evening of the day's events. One of the fireman crawled through the garage attic space with his portable water pack and spritzed down the last of the smoldering whatever was smoking. I invited them all to dinner. Strangely, they declined.

The good news - the house is livable, fixable, and everyone is okay. The other good news - I didn't have to cook. We ended up eating out at Chili's!

Fabulous Writer Advice

Short and sweet today. Nathan Bransford's March 5th entry is just what I needed to read, so I thought I'd share it with you.

TEN COMMANDMENTS FOR THE HAPPY WRITER

Enjoy!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Tim Hawkins - Chick-fil-A

I don't normally post twice in one day, but I had to share this. Too funny!!

Tim Hawkins: Chick-fil-A

Writing Confessions and the Wisdom of Letting a Manuscript Rest

I have a confession to make... well maybe two.

1) I've broken my first New Year's resolution. I promised to write 6 days a week, and I've not written a word since last Monday. To be fair (make excuses?), I've had a headache since Monday. One bad enough to stay home from work on Tuesday and go the the emergency room on Friday. Staring at a computer screen was out of the question. Unfortunately, there were no sick day clauses in the resolution, so now it's officially broken. My lazy self is saying, "Hey, you're off the hook! Kick back and relax that routine a bit!" My I really want to become a published author self is saying, "Back on the wagon, girl!" Back on the wagon it is.

2) (I thought) I finished the revisions on my current WIP at the end of January. I targeted my first five agents, printed out my query letters and required chapters for the snail mail bunch, stuffed the envelopes and branded them with stamps, and I put everything in the car so I could go to the post office and mail the lot after work. I never made it. Is that a bad thing?

I don't think so. It's been six weeks since I worked on this manuscript. There's something to be said for reading it with fresh eyes. I was surprised, in a good way, about much of what I wrote. I was relieved that I hadn't sent out the manuscript when I realized that a good portion of a particular chapter didn't move the story forward. I cut 95% of it out of the book and placed it in an 'out-takes' folder. That was hard. I really liked that scene. I knew it didn't belong when I discovered I only had to re-write one line to fix the hole. I'm pleased with the results of this latest revision. Time to get up the nerve to send it out again. It's ready.

I'm glad I waited (got nervous, scared, cold feet...) to send out my book. I've decided that letting a WIP rest is a good thing. It's a practice I'll keep for future works. Live and learn!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Speak


I just finished reading SPEAK, by Laurie Halse Anderson.

One word: FABULOUS!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Forest of Hands and Teeth - Free book contest!



If you like zombies, Carrie Ryan's debut book, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, will be released this Tuesday, March 10th! If you would like an opportunity to win a free copy, hop on over to Tabitha Olson's blog. Leave a comment on her March 7th post, and you are entered for the March 28th drawing.

Good luck!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Feelin' Silly...

It's an absolutely gorgeous day here in Cincinnati - 76 degrees and the sun is shining. Perfect day for a gardener-a-holic to clean out the flower beds.

I begin my tour around the yard to plot my plan of action when I notice that one of my larger flower containers has a drainage problem. The soil is completely saturated and full to the brim with soured water, so I decide to tip over the planter and drain it. This is a BIG planter. Big like the ones you see in the mall that are overflowing with blooms and ferns and sometimes small trees. I almost have it tipped over when it slips out of my hands and lands, all 100+ pounds or so of it, on my foot. It stunned me at first, and it took a second for me to think - "Get it off your foot, stupid!"

I don't think it's broken, but is quite swollen. My plans for the day have changed. Instead of working in the garden, I'm going to sit in a lounge chair and work on my summer tan. Can't waste a beautiful day, right?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Thankful

Today was at least a week long.

Sometimes my job as a teacher is to be a sounding board, and I don't mind. It usually means that the parent or student who comes to me trusts me enough to share something scary, or hurtful, or like today - incomprehensibly horrific and sad. If I can, I try to fix what's fixable about the situation, but mostly I just listen.

Tonight I'm thankful for my husband and my kids, and for a peaceful and stable home.

Friday, February 27, 2009

A Bit Needy...

Christy has a fun Meme on her blog. I had to try it!

What you do, is type {your name} and the word "needs" in your google search engine and then list the first 10 things that it says you need. Here's mine:

Nora needs:
1) attention
2) to work on her act
3) a higher rating
4) a new home
5) to get a life
6) a permanent loving family
7) time to get that perfect wedding dress done for you
8) to grow up
9) the City Council
10) your number!

I know you're not supposed to list number 11, but Nora needs money... (this really is # 11!)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Elizabeth Gilbert: About Genius



TEDTalks recently posted a speech by Elizabeth Gilbert. Her topic was genius, and what she had to say completely changed the way I think about my writing process, my music performances, and my teaching of the gifted.

If you have time to watch the video, please do. It is WELL worth the time, which is about 19 minutes.

Keep writing.

Just for Fun... Become an M&M

Rena posted this on her blog and I had to try it!



Become an M&M!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Finally... Gymnastics, Resolutions, and Good Reads

Gymnastics competitions are finished! My weekends are mine again. My daughter and I have been in a different city every other week for the last couple of months. This past week, we were in Columbus, Ohio, for The Champion's Cup. Over 2000 girls competed in levels 3-10. Daughter and I watched the level 10s compete Saturday night. Wow! I was amazed at what they could do, but with spectacular tumbling comes spectacular crashes. My goodness! I thought one gymnast had broken her nose. She under-rotated a final back flip in a tumbling run and landed on her face - hard enough that her head bounced up from the mat. She stood right up, finished the routine, saluted the judges, and walked with her head held high to the sidelines. Never lost her game face. Impressive! Another gymnast finished her vault, walked to the sidelines, held up her foot and mouthed to her mother, "I broke my toe." She then proceeded to do her floor routine. Soccer is starting to look pretty good...

I've broken my first New Year's Resolution - to write six days a week, no excuses. It didn't quite work out this past week. I tried to write in the hotel Friday night. My daughter was in the bed and I was in a (comfy) chair with my laptop. The next thing I knew, it was 2:30 a.m. I'd fallen asleep writing. I managed a whole paragraph before nodding off. I'm back on the wagon this week.

I just finished reading The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman. What a good read! I'd had it on my list for awhile, but when it won the Newbery, I moved it to the front of the line. Definitely one I recommend!

I'm getting ready to teach a Medieval unit in my TAG class. I've chosen four books: Adam of the Road, by Elizabeth Janet Gray; Catherine Called Birdy, by Karen Cushman; The Midwife's Apprentice, by Karen Cushman; Good Master! Sweet Ladies! Voices From a Medieval Village, by Laura Amy Schlitz. I plan on putting students into different novel groups. I've had a blast teaching this in the past. Students build models of a village, an abby, and a castle - depending on their group assignment. They research weaponry, knights, games, etc., and we end it all with a medieval faire and feast. We invite the 4th, 5th and 6th grades to our faire, which is held in the gym. The feast is just for us. I've served turkey legs (KFC chicken legs), wine (grape juice), cheese, crusty bread, and fruit. The novel unit will last through mid-April. The research, model building, and preparations for the faire will be in May - after state testing. It's a great way to end the year!

Okay... I must write. I'm back on the wagon, after all.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday the 13th Traffic NIghtmares

It's Friday the 13th.

My daughter and I had the day off from school today, so we decided to spend the afternoon at the Cincinnati Museum Center. It's a fabulous museum, and now that my daughter is older we don't spend sooooo much time in the Children's museum. Today she asked to visit the Cincinnati History wing - one of my favorite places. We looked at a detailed model of 1940's Cincinnati (really cool!), wandered through WWII era artifacts, a reconstruction of a river boat and river town from the 1800's - complete with shops and hands-on opportunities. The Museum Center also has an Omnimax theater. We saw "Dinosaurs Alive," a film shown on a 5-story, 72-foot diameter, tilted and domed screen. There is a dinosaur exhibit as well, but we didn't have time to see it today. My girl wants to go back on Monday to explore again. We had a great time, until...

... the commute home.

Cincinnati traffic on interstate 75 is notoriously awful. We were traveling along fairly well, and then everything stopped except the car that was three cars behind me. It plowed into the little black car in front of it at full speed, and shoved it under the Jeep behind me that plowed into the rear of my van. My girl seems to be fine, but I'm getting more sore by the minute. The back of my poor van is a mess. It'll need a new bumper, and new hatch, new lights, and possibly a side panel as well. The officers wouldn't share insurance information because their priority (as it should be) was to make sure everyone was okay and clear the highway before rush hour made it to full swing. We got an officer name and a report number, an assurance that all the needed information was in the report, and then we were released.

Traffic on the way home was even worse - bumper to bumper semi-trucks and all sorts of commuters heading home. I thought we were doing okay until I heard a huge clunk from behind the van. My girl looked at me with big eyes and said, "What was that??" I didn't see anything on the road behind me except two SUVs working hard to get into another lane besides mine. There was nowhere to pull over. So I said, "I don't know, but I think we're either going to lose our bumper or our lights are falling apart." It took awhile, but we made it to an exit and to a parking lot where I discovered one light had fallen. It was swinging by its wires. With a little bit of duct tape we were good to go.

I took back roads the rest of the way home, and I will never again travel I 75 during any hour even remotely close to rush hour.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Writer Friends and Reading Buddies

I love my writer friends and reading buddies.

It was a girl's day out today. I had a late lunch (early dinner?) with my critique partner and friend. We met at Applebee's at 2:30 and talked at the restaurant for nearly three hours before heading to her house to talk for another three. We met for fun, not for work, but our passions are books and writing, so of course that's what we talked about. We discussed titles of ARCs she had read/critiqued that she thought were exciting, books we have recently read that we enjoy, the disappointment of manuscript rejection - especially when a contract seems within reach, should we submit to editors or agents, upcoming writer's workshops in Honesdale, the economy and the effect on the publishing industry, and our opinions of our nation's politics. In short, girl talk. : ) It was fun. I definitely need to do that more often.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Alive and Well and on the Planet Earth...

I'm still here!

It's conference time at school, and preparations of WEP's (written education plans) tend to take over my life. Conferences are finished Wednesday, so I'll be back soon.

Keep writing!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Resolution Review

Since today is the last of January, I thought I'd take a look at my New Year's resolution progress. Here goes:

1) I will write six days a week - no excuses.
*So far so good!

2) I will continually seek to improve my writing skills by writing, attending a monthly critique group, attending at least one writer's conference, reading lots of MG and YA literature, and reading books on the craft of writing.
*My monthly critique group was cancelled due to snow. I've read 5 MG and YA novels this month, but nothing about the craft of writing. I probably won't be able to attend a conference until fall, but I've been reading Alice Pope's blog about the New York SCBWI conference. Not quite like being there though.

3) I will actively seek agent representation
*I've been researching to find agents that are looking for what I write as well as authors they represent- checking agency websites, agentquery.com, amazon.com, etc.

4) I will write a synopsis for a sequel to the book I just finished writing.
*Nope. Haven't even thought about it yet.

5) I will finish writing the MG novel I began during NaNoWriMo.
*I've worked on this a very little bit. Mostly, I've been revising my current WIP.

There you have it. Not a bad start to the year. Now, if I can just keep it up...

Friday, January 30, 2009

Stir Crazy...

It's our 4th snow day, and I've had about all I can take of being housebound. My Christmas tree is finally down (but not in the crawl space yet), I've cooked a record number of meals in a row, and I've written, drawn, painted, cleaned and read my limit. The kids are bickering at the drop of a hat. I need to get out, out, OUT! bwahahahahahahah..... (insanity ensues). The sun is shining. Maybe the roads will melt a bit and I can take the kids to our favorite pizza place for lunch. We could go walk the mall. That would be good. When we get back, maybe my head will be ready to tackle my WIP's query and synopsis. Time to send out that story!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Query Quandary and Snow Day - Part 3

I'm home again today - icebound. The county is still trying to clean up the mess. So... it's another writing day! (big grin)

I started work on my query last night. It's MUCH harder than it should be. I've got a 1st draft. It's not what I want to send, but it's a starting point. Writing the log line was easy, it's writing the pitch that is difficult. My head is full of story details. All of which, of course, I think are important. How do you put down what's critical and make it stand out from the crowd? I began my quest to find the answer last night, and I came up with these helpful resources:

Nathan Bransford has terrific information on his blog. Listed on the sidebar below the "About Me," you'll find information regarding basic formatting and examples of good query letters.

Cheryl Klein has "The Annotated Query Letter from Hell" posted on her website. This made me laugh!

Agentquery.com has a page called "How to Write a Query."

Chuck Sambuchino's blog has a page about queries. If you scroll down to October 16, 2008, there is an entry called "Breaking Down the Query Letter."

VerlaKay's Children's Writers & Illustrators Message Board has a thread called "Query Letters that Sold." There are some very good examples posted.

Both VerlaKay and SCBWI boards will allow you to submit your query for critique (eek!). I'm not sure I want my drafts to be critiqued in such a public manner.

If you know of other online query resources and examples, please share. I would appreciate it. Thanks!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

SNOW DAY - Part 2



This is my favorite tree in my backyard. I understand that birches are flexible, but I find it hard to believe this doesn't cause damage. We'll see.

Today's snow day is different than yesterday's. Yesterday's snow day was lighthearted from the start. Even the snow was light and powdery - not much good for sledding, though. Today, a 1/2 inch coating of ice threatens to fell trees and down power lines, and another 3-6 inches of snow is expected to fall. The trees and rooftops outside my window are beautiful - and dangerous. The branches sag with the weight of the ice. If the kids decide to sled, I'll have to remind them to stay out from under the trees. I bet the sleds will fly today!

We didn't finish taking down the Christmas tree yesterday. I'm determined it'll be in the crawl space before the evening is done. I'm getting ready to fill the crock pot again, this time with white chicken chile, and I'll make some corn bread muffins as well. BTW: Brenda, yesterday's recipe was quite good!

Today's a writing day. It's peaceful outside. My to-do list is short. My head is full of ideas. Carpe diem!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

SNOW DAY!!

It's a snow day here in Cincinnati. Schools, businesses, state colleges and universities - everyone is closed for business. We got 4 inches overnight. For all of you northerners who are snorting your coffee with laughter right now - Yes, LESS than 4 inches can shut down the city. As of 9 a.m. there were 434 closings. My husband hails from Michigan and my dad from Maine. They have a grand time in the snow. They shake their heads at the southern Ohio drivers who struggle to navigate the mess and expertly zip around them. Me? I'm thankful for an excuse to stay out of it all.

I love snow days (says the teacher). I don't want too many, just a couple of well-placed days off here and there. There is something special about a day where nature has wiped my agenda clean. I get so much DONE. My daughter and I are going to shovel the first round of snow off the driveway, and then we're going to take down the Christmas tree. That's right. My Christmas tree is still up. It's been known to stay up as late as Easter if I don't get it down before the end of Christmas break. I'll get in some writing time. So far I've been able to keep my New Year's resolution of writing 6 days a week - no excuses. What's my favorite part of a snow day? Time to curl up on the sofa with a good book and a cup of hot tea.

I'm getting ready to fill the crockpot with Hazel's Ranch Chicken recipe. Thank you, Brenda, for Hazel's Crockpot Thursdays! Have a great snow day, everyone!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

I'm Plotting Again...

Revisions are done!! (whew), ...at least for now. I'm going to set it aside for a few weeks then read it again with a fresh head. In the meantime, I'm working on a query letter, researching agents, and listening to a new character chatter away in my head. She's great fun and very different from my 1st protagonist. We're spending time together -getting to know each other over pizza and soda. She talks about her trouble a bit, but she's quite interesting. Might be a relationship worth pursuing.


Brenda has nominated me for the Kreativ Blogger award. Thanks, Brenda! I am supposed to list 7 things I love and nominate 7 new people. My list is a bit of a hodgepodge. Here goes:

1. I love my family. My husband is the best, and my children make me proud!

2. I love my students. The kids I work with are terrific. I am fortunate, indeed!

3. Solitude. Don't get me wrong - I love people, but they drain my battery dry. There's nothing quite like a few quiet, uninterrupted hours to recharge.

4. If I have time, I love to cook. I enjoy putting together a nice dinner for my family or making a dessert for friends.

5. I love to write. There is nothing I enjoy more than sitting at my computer and creating an entirely new reality.

6. I love walking in the park when the weather cooperates. I'm looking forward to spring!

7. I love a good book. One that makes me forget who I am and what my to-do list is for the day (or even the week).


I now nominate: chocolateer. As for the other six, I'm a bit late jumping into the game. My blogging friends have beat me to the punch!! But I'll name them anyway:

Brenda's Page
Rena Jones
Kim Kasch- A Writer's Blog
Chocolate for Inspiration
Christy's Creative Space
Bish